Ukrainian forces have made significant strategic advances in the south of the country, near Bakhmut, and in western Zaporizhia. Ukraine will also take control of the northern part of the Black Sea, including by disabling Russian anti-aircraft systems in Crimea.
Peter Wijninga, a defense specialist and security expert at the Center for Strategic Studies in The Hague, considers it an achievement that the Ukrainian army managed to send armored vehicles and tanks through a hard-fought gap of two and a half kilometers in Russian territory. defense lines near Zaporizhia in recent days. “This breakthrough, between Robotyne and Verbove, in the Zaporizhia region, was forced on foot, but the Ukrainian army can now use armored vehicles to advance along this breakthrough. The battle is far from over, but there are fewer minefields between this line and the next.”
It is important, according to Wijninga, that Ukrainian artillery also advances and thus increasingly takes control of crucial Russian supply routes. Russian military bloggers have been complaining about the latter for several days. The fact that Russian airborne troops from Bachmut were hastily dispatched to this front to fill the gaps also indicates that Moscow is concerned about the situation.
The clock is ticking
Meanwhile, the seasons are turning, points out General Mark Milley, head of the American armed forces. He warned that Ukraine had “little time” to continue its military offensive this year due to deteriorating weather conditions. Ukrainian spring and autumn mud is infamous. Milley estimates that Ukraine only has 30 to 45 days of favorable weather conditions for fighting.
Wijninga hears the Ukrainians are a little more optimistic. It is possible that rain will arrive later – as has often happened in recent years – and therefore conditions could remain suitable for large-scale ground military operations until the end of November. What Milley is actually suggesting in his texts is that Ukraine cannot liberate the hoped-for corridor to the Black Sea within 30 days. This would be a huge military success and would at the same time cut off many Russian troops west of this line from the rest. Wijninga believes that it is certainly conceivable that the Ukrainians could reach the Melitopol region in the near future and target Russian strategic crossroads from there.
The Russians will want to take advantage of any weather-induced break in fighting to build new defense lines with anti-tank ditches and concrete pylons, but it's not that simple. Besides the difficulty of digging in frozen ground, Ukrainian artillery continues to expand its range. “Ukraine now has advanced weapons, artillery tracking radars and drones for this purpose, while Russian artillery is going through a difficult time. Between twenty and forty Russian artillery pieces are destroyed every day, which must be quite worrying even for the Russians,” Wijninga said.
The first American Abrams tanks will arrive in Ukraine next week, President Biden promised yesterday. For the moment only thirteen pieces which in themselves have no game changer but according to Wijninga, they are a very welcome addition to Ukraine's attacking potential.
Meanwhile, Russian missile attacks on Ukrainian cities and infrastructure continue unabated. Alongside this development, Ukrainian air raids, particularly on Crimea, have also intensified. A Russian S-400 air defense system was destroyed there this week. This was done using eleven drones in a diversionary attack and two Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles to get the job done. An S-400 system costs more than 600 million euros. Two weeks earlier, the same system had been disabled by a British Storm Shadow missile.
These successful attacks left Russian military bases in Crimea vulnerable and effectively returned Ukraine to control of the northwestern part of the Black Sea, important for Ukrainian grain exports. Some experts suggest that Ukraine is not necessarily planning to conquer the entire peninsula, but rather to cut off supplies to Russian soldiers.
Watch our videos on the war in Ukraine here:
Free and unlimited access to Showbytes? That can!
Log in or create an account and don't miss anything from the stars.